Xerte 3 is now released – what’s new & why should you upgrade?

July 29, 2015 at 4:01 pm

You may have seen via various channels that Xerte 3 is now out of beta and officially available for production use. You may also have read about some of the new features and/or seen the release notes and/or seen the video embedded below.  But simply put:

This is a must-have Xerte upgrade and obviously it’s free and open source so isn’t subject to the licence costs often attached to upgrading commercial software.

First a quick animated video snapshot of some of the benefits before further comment:

Those of us who have been developing this release and testing and using it at the same time over a period of months have all echoed the same reflection:

Once you’ve used this Xerte version you’ll find the old version, if you still have to use it for some reason, very frustrating!

Now obviously Xerte has been very popular, effective, flexible and powerful even before this release but the new WYSIWYG editor in particular, but also some of the other new affordances potentially at least bring this to a whole new level!

The official release notes outline some of the new features and benefits but until you use it for yourself it might seem like some of these new features are minimal improvements. Indeed some are very simple, although very useful, tweaks and as always we have listened to community feedback, responded to common requests and along the way added some brand new features too. The point to remember here is that our core values remain the same:

1. To maintain the ease of use – for anyone and everyone yet also providing a powerful tool for developers
2. To maintain the high level of built-in accessibility – for everyone not just for screen reader users
3. To continue to foster and support a positive community – which as you may know is mature and well established and growing all the time

Despite all this I often find that those with a learning technologist role, or specialist developer role, or similar variation, can sometimes be a barrier to wider Xerte adoption. The point is if you have the time and expertise there are a myriad of other free and commercial authoring tools you can use as part of your workflow and toolkit, (I use them too)  but it doesn’t have to be either/or – you can use Xerte together with those other tools. More importantly what about everyone else in your organisation?

Where Xerte really plays it’s part is as an authoring tool for everyone – for all staff and all students! That’s simply not viable with most, if not all, of the commercial tools currently popular in some organisations.

Here’s a Pecha Kucha presentation that I used at an East Midlands Learning Technologists Group meeting recently that expands on this key message further. Play the audio on the first page and the presentation should self-run and self-navigate:

Summary

The info and resources linked above should make the benefits of this new bigger and better Xerte very clear, but to summarise:

This really is a must-have upgrade!

If you already use Xerte you should be banging on the door of whoever looks after your installation and prompting them to upgrade.

If you don’t currently use Xerte or have explored and dismissed it previously – now is the time to look again and to really look on behalf of the staff and learners you work with too!

Suffice to say if you’re interested in any kind of Xerte support there is free support via our various community channels and there is direct consultancy support available too! 😉

 

 

The Xerte story so far

March 24, 2015 at 11:51 am

Partly in preparation for a CPD webinar about Xerte for the Learning Futures programme but also for use during other sessions and conferences I put together the video below providing an overview of the Xerte story so far…

Xerte, Apereo Incubation and the Jisc Invitation for project submissions for Interactive Learning Resources

September 23, 2014 at 11:06 am
incubation

Why this image? Well firstly it was sourced via Xpert – another Xerte related tool. Also this post is partly about the news regarding Xerte entering Apereo Incubation but also my inherent message is about use of different authoring tools , some saying they prefer other tools and missing the point, you don’t need to and rarely can put all your eggs in one basket! 😉

Julian Tenney from University of Nottingham posted the news at the foot of this post about Xerte beginning the Apereo Incubation process to the Xerte mailing lists yesterday (22nd Sept) and it seemed appropriate to post and add to that news here too for a few reasons…

  1. For those using Xerte please regard this as very good news! Myself and other members of the small but dedicated Xerte developer community have been and will be directly part of these developments and will ensure that the tools remain free and open source and more importantly continue to focus on core values like enabling teachers and learners to create and share interactive and accessible materials easily, efficiently and collaboratively. Even at this very beginning of incubation there are signs that this will result in an increase in those contributing to development of the tools.
  2. There have also been some very exciting on-going improvements and additions which we have been working on over the summer – some of which were demonstrated at the Xerte AGM in Belgium in June this year and will form part of a new release by the end of the year if not sooner. For an example I showed the new wysiwyg editor to a few people at the Jisc RSC-Eastern efair in the summer and recorded some reactions. More background and one of the video clips in this LO http://mitchellmedia.co.uk/xot/play_134
  3. I notice the news from Jisc re the Invitation for project submissions for Interactive Learning Resources. I know there are sometimes political or policy barriers for sector organisations to be seen to be directly promoting particular tools but as I’m self-employed these days I have no such barrier – it seems to me planning to use Xerte as part of these projects would be a perfect match! The ability to easily share for both consumption and repurposing, the collaborative features built-in and the unparalleled accessibility make Xerte an obvious choice even if you then use other tools with it too. Indeed you undoubtedly will use multiple tools whatever core tool you choose.
  4. Also amongst all the positive examples and comments about Xerte there are sometimes quite negative comments about limitations etc particularly aesthetics and comparisons to other tools. So here’s the reason I mention all this: I use a wide range of other tools regularly too but that misses the point. More specialised tools (often costly) can be used together with Xerte so the specialists or those who have the budget and time to learn and use the more complex tools can use those tools and other staff (and students – indeed ALL staff and students) can use Xerte and benefit from being able to quickly create interactive content themselves, add the additional material or assets created by the specialists and benefit from the multi-platform highly accessible content Xerte facilitates. Here’s a link shared by Terry McAndrew from the HEAcademy to where the £40k of Digital Literacy in the Disciplines projects (using Xerte) were uploaded. This is a resource wiki so comments and ideas can be posted in the ‘discussion tab’ if you wish to do so. See http://dlind.referata.com/wiki/Digital_Literacy_in_the_Disciplines for the outputs and outcomes. Also for those who haven’t seen these resources a link to examples of use of Articulate Storyline and Xerte together at http://learningmathsonline.ac.uk
  5. For those who comment negatively on the look of Xerte output I’d make the following comments:
    Firstly we’ve long had HTML 5 functionality now so anyone with the time and skills can make Xerte content look very different both in terms of the interface and the actual content. I’ve done many customisations and have working examples of different themes that can be applies to a Xerte install or individual LO’s. This is similar to applying themes to something like Moodle where it can be made to look very different according to requirements. Secondly and more importantly…

    If you see examples created with any authoring tool that you regard as not engaging either aesthetically or pedagogically a simple fact applies – those involved in developing those materials have not put in the effort required to make that material engaging – it’s rarely the fault of the tool!

    Indeed the ease of use with Xerte often exposes that very lack of imagination, creatively and good learning design because there’s no longer a time or technical excuse for those involved! Actually that sounds harsh – what it really reflects is that it takes time and effort to learn how to develop effective learning content and that’s far more to do with appropriate pedagogy than the technicalities and an easy to use tool leads to greater focus on the intricacies of good learning design. I’ve delivered many Xerte training sessions over the years and it’s true to say that in the early days of the tool and what you might call e-learning maturity the main focus had to be on the technical skills. In more recent years and months that takes up far less of the time and there is much more focus and benefit from a focus on effective learning design.

    Suffice to say if you are looking to improve your use of Xerte or planning to submit a bid for the Jisc funding I’d be happy to help!

I hope this is useful additional comment to the news below.

Ron

Mailing list post by Julian Tenney:

Dear All,

I am really excited to be able to announce that The Xerte Project has been accepted as an incubating project at The Apereo Foundation (https://www.apereo.org/). This is a fantastic opportunity for the project – as you know, The University of Nottingham has led the developments over the years. Over the last few years, with increasing contributions from a growing community of developers it is fair to say that Nottingham’s contribution is now a much smaller percentage of the total than it once was. This reflects the growing volume of work, rather than a dwindling commitment on our part, and we remain dedicated to the project as an important platform for innovation, and for the creation and delivery of high quality content to learners here at the University.

As the project has grown, we have turned to questions around its sustainability. We have spent a lot of time over the last eighteen months or so exploring various options: we know that sustainability is a key issue for those looking to adopt the technology in other organisations and we understand that the current situation raises some questions for potential adopters: there is a sense that the project has a single point of failure. As priorities have changed here at the University, and the shape of my team has changed over the years, we do have fewer resources to put into the project than we used to have. We also appreciate that the current situation makes it hard for the project to achieve its full potential. As the only open source tool in its class it really deserves to increase its reach into new sectors and to find ways to generate and use revenue. Also, as the developer community has grown, it is increasingly important to ensure that the project continues to develop within a rigorous framework.

Over the last 18 months we have carefully explored all the options available to us, and we have chosen Apereo for its solid presence in educational technology and its excellent cultural fit with The Xerte Project. I’m really excited about this opportunity, and I’m really looking forward to working with Apereo through the incubation process.

My thanks go to all our users, contributors and developers, without whom the project could not have reached this significant milestone.

Julian

There is some further information from Apereo here:

http://www.prlog.org/12373629-premier-interactive-content-authoring-project-to-reach-broader-audience.html

Xerte training for Health Science students

October 2, 2013 at 7:14 pm

ron-smI delivered a very short Xerte Training session for some Health Science students at Newman University in Birmingham yesterday. (1st Oct 2013)

@BobRidgeStearn tweeted during the session and took the photo opposite. You can view related blog postings via their blog, including a post about what we covered yesterday and a previous post about the project.

Although we also scheduled an afternoon session with some of the staff at Newman, including Bob and some of his team, my main prep was to update some of my existing Xerte LO’s and some new LO’s to provide a wide range of guidance which I could use during the sessions but also which would work as self-access resources after the sessions and for the students in particular. As the student session was so short (and even shorter after one or two technical issues) I wanted to share some short but clear and important tips that I think are essential in creating effective learning resources and activities with Xerte. You can view one of the LO’s I used via the screenshot below. Please note the copyright info.

top_tips

Xerte & XOT Update

November 26, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Last week I was due to deliver a guest speaker slot at a JISC RSC Eastern Learning Resources Manager Forum providing a Xerte Update. Most members of the forum had heard of Xerte and some of their organisations were using it but even so this was to be a general overview and update including latest news and developments etc. I decided to use the opportunity to test the latest Xenith/HTML 5 developments by creating LO’s that for the most part worked via both Flash and HTML5. The theory was that I would use the Flash player to present with but share the HTML5 links with the group to those same LO’s.

Note: development of both XOT and the Xenith code changes daily (indeed hourly on most days) at the moment so not all the pages or functionality included below will work 100% at the moment and some of these LO’s will work better via Flash or via a larger window. However this blog post is also to demonstrate that multiple multi-page LO’s can be embedded in a web/blog page or indeed a VLE page etc and hopefully work well on a wide range of mobile devices. Consider this a test and I’ll be updating this post or adding new posts as developments progress. Hopefully XOT 1.9 will be released by mid December – watch out for news via http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/xerte/ or Twitter etc

The heading of this blog post could easily have been Xerte on iPad Updated because although the iOS apps that I mentioned in one of my previous blog posts are still useful we now have the results of the Xenith developments integrated with XOT to make development for and consumption on mobile devices much much easier!

Here’s the various LO’s I used, or at least prepared for the RSCE session, which I’ll be keeping up-to-date as developments progress.

Link to the Flash version | Link to the HTML5 version

Link to the Flash version | Link to the HTML5 version

Link to the Flash version | Link to the HTML5 version

Link to the Flash version | Link to the HTML5 version

Link to the Flash version | Link to the HTML5 version

Link to the Flash version | Link to the HTML5 version

Link to the Flash version | Link to the HTML5 version